Recipe for a smear piece

On May 17, 2011, an article by Emanuel Karlsten with the title “Wikileaks har helt förlorat fotfästet” was published in Dagens Nyheter (translation of title: “WikiLeaks has completely lost its foothold”). The article was linked at the very top of DN.se, making it maximally visible. The way in which the text is cooked up is interesting and therefore I’ll go through it.

The article begins with criticizing the non-disclosure agreement (NDA) recently discussed in several places, for instance in the jackofkent blog and on wlcentral. The criticism in Karlstens’s article seems to amount to mainly complaining about the large liability sum mentioned in the NDA, plus generally not liking the idea of an NDA in the first place. (There exists well founded criticism of the NDA as it is currently formulated, but that was not the issue in the article.)

Then, Johannes Wahlström is suddenly thrown in and it is insinuated, using a discussion between him and a police regarding possible leaks from the police investigation concerning Julian Assange, that Wahlström is somehow not too happy with open government (offentlighetsprincipen). This is of course nonsense, please read the witness statement “E” in English and Swedish yourself. (And yes, I have read the footnote in the Resumé article.)

Karlsten later complains on his blog that his article had to be limited to 2800 characters. Still, he chooses to continue the article with a lengthy description of what open government means – something we all already know. Apparently this took up so much space that there was, unfortunately, no place to mention the principle of confidentiality of pre-trial investigations (förundersöknings-sekretess), which you can read more about here (in Swedish).

In a final blow, Karlsten concludes that all of this means that “[WikiLeaks] misslyckats leva efter sina egna krav på öppenhet” (translation: [WikiLeaks] has failed to follow its own demands of transparency”).

WikiLeaks is a tiny organization handling highly sensitive information and working for increased transparency of governments, investment banks, large corporations and other powerful bodies who certainly do not wish to become more transparent. And now, please think about what those large, powerful entities could and would do to this tiny organization if they knew everything about it, or if the people working there could easily be pressured into disclosing whatever information.

In summary: mix some uninformed assertions and unfounded insinuations, throw in something with positive connotation (e.g., the open government doctrine) and make it sound vaguely threatened or criticized. Finally, spice the whole thing up with a refusal to think logically. That’s how to cook up a smear piece.

To me, a person who demands total transparency of WL either

simply doesn’t get it (cannot apply logic)

or

doesn’t like WL and wants it to go away

or

believes that WL is a CIA front or similar.

That said, there are certainly ways in which WL as an organization could and should be improved. However, it is also clear that WL has learned from its past and adjusted the organization accordingly. In fact, it has been clearly demonstrated that WL cannot function on trust alone, and the NDA is a consequence of this.

A couple of deleted comments (not mine) to the article can be found below.

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